“I’m not even sure bisexuality exists. I think it’s just a layover on the way to Gay town.”
One of the most damaging stereotypes about bisexual people was given by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex And The City.
Fans will remember the episode “Boy, Girl, Boy Girl” where she is uncomfortable with dating a man who told her he was bisexual as casually as one would say they were from Colorado.
After running through well-worn bisexual stereotypes like” greedy” and “confused” with Miranda and Charlotte, she laughs and continues lunch with her friends.
This was all while her openly bisexual friend, Samantha, tried to defend him and being lauded as one of the most sex positive shows of the 90’s.
Fortunately bisexuality is not as demonised right? Well, not really.
We can remember the treatment of Amber Heard and how her bisexuality was weaponised to question her credibility about her relationship with Johnny Depp.
How does this treatment makes bisexual people feel?
An anonymous photographer and artist, let’s call her Jade, shared her experience with me. She explained how in March of 2020, when she was in her early 20’s, she had to move back home to Guernsey during lockdown while she was in still in university.
She said: ‘I had a fiancé at the time (another trans woman) and we’ve both finished medically transitioning which we did together.
‘I hadn’t been home in a while; it’s a small town and I didn’t grow up with any queer people, and we had to stay with a man for lockdown, who was from there and thought like everyone there.
‘He was in his early 30’s and was aware I was bisexual, he was excited by it.
‘I was naïve and allowed him to use me as he liked at the time. He taught me new things about my body, and I naively felt he validated my womanhood, until one night when he tried to take advantage of my fiancé while she was sleeping.
Jade (not her real name) explained how the man who she was living with at the time, let people assume that the three of them were in a relationship, and spoke to her and her former girlfriend like he owned them.
She said: ‘He was extremely territorial when we befriended new people, including a gay woman.
‘We once went off to hang out with her and he cried and smashed a glass, meaning I had to go back into the flat to calm him down, clean up the blood, and leave my friend behind.”
Jade stayed for 2 years, and now looking back explained what a traumatising experience was to be with a man who had ‘questionable intentions’ and treated her ‘terribly’. However, she found the relationship ‘validating’ of her womanhood in a way being with a woman didn’t.
She found life pre transition would ensure her attraction to women but still feels uncomfortable about it.
‘I did not date anyone before I transitioned except my former fiancé, but our relationship was more sisterly than romantic, as I’ve realised I’m more attracted to men sexually, so I date them more often now.”
She predominantly dates men now and
‘I also feel l passing as cis and straight is easier (than being trans and bisexual) because I am exhausted and traumatised from being seen as overtly queer for the first 2 decades of my life, and consequently being treated poorly because of it.
‘Although passing makes life easier, I often struggle to fit into trans specific spaces, but I do, however, fit in best with bisexual women”.
Jade’s experience obviously exacerbated by her circumstances as a trans woman in transphobic environment, but bisexual people are no monolith.
Caitlin Hart , 20, a cis woman and one of our writers explained how biphobia tends to come in more subtle forms than outright homophobia.
She said: ‘It’s almost more like micro aggressions- it tends to be things like “so you’ve slept with men, you’re basically straight” or assuming because you’re bisexual, you’re more likely to have multiple partners or be a cheat or be a slag.
‘Even when dating women, it’s happened a couple times and is normally a bit more jokey, but it can still wear you down after having things like “so you’re basically straight” thrown at you over and over.
‘It’s like you know it’s a joke but you constantly feel like you have to defend your sexuality and prove that you’re gay enough to be dating them.’
Student and influencer, Asherah Olumide described her experience being black and trans in sapphic spaces as a bisexual person.
‘I was in a sapphic space once, and another woman in that space crossed my boundaries and assaulted me in public.
‘She made me incredibly uncomfortable, and I think because she knew I was bisexual, that she thought I would be more accommodating of that behaviour.’
‘I know that some TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) occupy in sapphic spaces’ Asherah says, ‘and I was worried that me reacting as a black trans woman to this woman who was neither, I’d be seen as the aggressor in the situation”.
‘I think one of the most important parts of biphobia is invalidation as people constantly want to put you in a box because they don’t understand that some people’s sexuality is fluid. We can love and be attracted to numerous types of people.’
‘A lot of people don’t think that trans people have a sexuality and people are shocked when I express that I’m attracted to different people or other trans people too.
“Men tend to ask me for threesomes and fetishise me and lesbians don’t’ like that I’ve been with only men.”
The intersecting discrimination of race and sexuality is a fairly contentious subject as it is common for queer people of colour (POC).
Thomas Carter, a trainee psychologist, explained what effects this double discrimination can have on people, men specifically.
He said: “A report came out a few years ago that, among other things, highlighted that bisexual people experienced a lot of biphobia uniquely in queer spaces which were made for queer people.
‘This can be even worse for racialised (POC) people because a lot of queer spaces can be exclusionary.
He explained how this discrimination from heterosexuals, causes bisexual men to use ‘bisexual’ more often when they are single and actively dating than when they are in a relationship.
Carter also criticised the lack of research into bisexual mental health as a whole.
‘There is a lack of research literature on bisexual people’s experiences and their mental health which (to me) speaks to the societal belief that bisexuality isn’t valid and therefore bisexual people’s mental health does not require research or matter.’
Sofia Matsumoto, 28, who is a cancer researcher, and content creator explained how in her university years she used dating apps for quite while and found it very common to be rejected by women for being bisexual
She said: “One of the first questions would be ‘are you fully lesbian or just bisexual’ and when I would tell them I was bisexual they would immediately unmatch me.”
“It really hindered me from being in a more serious relationship with a woman and was very frustrating for a while before I got married to my husband.”
Sam, who is a relationship counsellor and author explained how experiencing Biphobia can affect relationships and lead to feelings of ‘shame’, ‘self-doubt’ and ‘insecurity’ about one’s identity and worth as a person.
He said: “It can also add to negative internalised attitudes about one’s own bisexuality, possibly leading to difficulties accepting and valuing oneself as a bisexual individual.”
Sam explained how there are a number of possible ways through which discrimination and stigma can impact physical health.
“Experiencing discrimination and stigma can be a highly stressful and traumatic experience, which can lead to the activation of the body’s stress response system. Chronic activation of this system has been linked to a range of negative health outcomes, including physical health problems.”
“This is a recurring theme amongst my bisexual clients, it is often a source of conflict or tension in their relationship if their partner does not understand or accept their bisexuality.”
All these issues cause bisexual people to seek professional help from people like Sam, but he says “mental health spaces are not perfect either”
Melleia who is an assistant psychologist for the NHS and who’s done research in bisexual women’s experiences in therapy, explained how the biphobia the women she has talked to experienced in queer spaces caused them to not seek out LGBTQ+ therapists or queer friendly therapists.
She said: ‘They felt they weren’t queer enough to access queer friendly services. Some did not even see it as worth bringing up in therapy.
‘Those that did had mostly negative experiences with therapy (in the study). Therapists would, on one end, never bring up or ask about their sexuality or other marginalised identities and even being dismissive of the women bringing it up in therapy. On the other end, were biphobic therapists.
‘One woman’s experience stood out to me, her therapist said things like ‘why would you want to be with a woman when you could have children with a man?’ and other awful biphobic comments.”
Melleia explained further how therapists are not just to blame but the education system as well.
‘The training therapists, and a lot of other health professionals, get on LGBTQ identities in general is so poor and scarce.
“When it does happen, they aren’t trained by specialists or people with lived experiences of being queer or they lump all queer people together in the training for 30 minutes and that’s it.”
“This leaves therapists with using only their personal experiences of queer people in their lives, learning from mistakes of working with other queer clients and societal stereotypes of bisexuality to provide support to bisexual patients and clients. Some therapists relate because they are queer too but not all are bisexual.”
So, while Carrie left Sean at an all gender spin the bottle game at a party (yes, another bisexual stereotype), claiming her and her ways were “too old” for him, a lot of real bisexual people can still feel the reeling effects over 20 years later.